Rising moon over the sea and a shooting star in the distanceHave you ever had moments when you’ve been struck by an intense clarity, a knowing, that we’re all integral parts of something much bigger than we’ve ever dared imagine? For me, it always occurs when I least expect it. I’ll be immersed in life when something unusual occurs and my world tilts. In that moment, the drab—and sometimes not-so-drab—curtain of everyday life parts until I’m staring beyond it to the universal perfection that is only offered to me in rare glimpses.

The first time I recall it happening was at nine years-old. Summer had arrived, which meant no school and long stretches of daylight when dinner morphed from an end-of-day event to a minor pit stop before dashing back outside to play until dark.

On this particular evening as dusk settled and the air cooled, my friends disappeared into the night, one by one, as the call of their names echoed throughout the neighborhood. Soon, only my friend Eric and I remained, both of us perched on the swings in my back yard. Maybe each of our parents had become distracted and hadn’t realized how dark it had become. We stayed outside a long time.

For some reason, our banter turned serious, focused on the field of stars that intensified above us. Our own intensity grew as we pondered its vastness, the epic nature of it. Suddenly, we both stopped talking and simply stared into the cosmos as if we’d lost our voices. Perhaps it would be more dramatic to say a star suddenly shot across the night sky, the tip of a sword slashing through black velvet from the other side, but it didn’t. Instead, the silence welled, and that struck me as unusual. The silence grew so loud I could almost hear it. And in that moment, a sudden peace descended, a knowing that I somehow fit into an immense, interlocking puzzle. A puzzle of staggering complexity and perfection. A puzzle I could never impair, even if I tried.

I don’t know what thoughts tumbled through Eric’s head. But I sensed he felt it as well because we both sat and peered toward the heavens for a long time without disturbing the silence.

Since then, those moments have occurred often enough to sustain me, but infrequent enough to retain their powerful enchantment. I’ve come to think of those instances as the universe sweeping through me, a wave of perfection that lifts me into its swell for a brief moment before easing my feet back down to earth, back to my everyday world.

Lately, past occurrences have played through my mind. Like the time shortly after that conversation on the swing set, when I stepped out on my front porch at night for no good reason other than a compelling need to be outside. Greeted by a low hanging moon, full and bright, the orb dissolved before my eyes in a total eclipse. I’d had no idea one had been forecasted.

Or that spectacular moment on the fantail of a naval destroyer—Summer – School Part 2—right as I witnessed one of the most incredible events I’ve ever seen in person.

Or the night on Mt. Rogers at two a.m. when I heard footsteps outside the tent my wife and I shared. I burst from the opening, convinced the strange man we’d seen earlier had found our secluded camp we’d purposely hidden in a small clearing well off the hiking trail. The man had stopped us that morning at the foot of the trail and shown us his homemade bowie knife right before asking where we planned to camp for the night. But instead of a knife-wielding madman, I came face-to-face with four wild horses and a colt. They stood in our camp, blond manes spilling over auburn coats. Their calm eyes seemed to wonder why we’d invaded their spot. I stared at them, and them at me. Once again, I felt the universe sweep through my being.

There’s a reason I’ve been thinking about these moments lately. I recently had an epiphany regarding them that shocks me because it took so long to realize. Once common element runs through each of these experiences:

They all happened outdoors.

Not once has that universal perfection swept through me when I’ve been indoors, ever. Yet, I spend way too much time bottled up inside a house or some other building. Perhaps today’s forecast is a sign, a high of 71 degrees on a day so near the end of November. The universe knows I need to spend a little extra time outdoors today. A little sunshine on my face, and universe in my soul, will do me good.

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